10 Uses for Lemons

bowl of sliced lemons - lemons can help heal itchy scalp
Lemons are tasty, pretty — and they can do all sorts of magical things including helping heal your scalp. natashamam/Shutterstock

Lemons are so much more than a colorful garnish. These little yellow citrus fruits have hundreds of practical applications around the house, from polishing stainless steel appliances to brightening laundry. The citric acid in lemons gives them powerful natural cleaning abilities, and they're useful for natural health and beauty, too. These 10 uses for lemons can cut back on your house cleaning expenses, eliminate unnecessary chemical cleaners and give your home a fresh, invigorating scent.

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Remove Tarnish

Remove the tarnish that keeps brass, copper and stainless steel from sparkling by making a paste of lemon juice and salt and applying it to the affected surface. Let it sit for five minutes, then rinse with warm water and pat dry.

Deodorize Your Home

closeup of lemon with peel
Simmer lemon peel in a pot of water to give your house a fresh scent. kirpad/Shutterstock

From the refrigerator to the cat litter box, lemons can eliminate bad smells of all kinds throughout the house. Soak a sponge in lemon juice and place it inside the fridge to absorb odors. Simmer lemon peel in a pot of water for a fresh whole-house scent. Toss leftover lemon down your garbage disposal to banish bad smells from accumulated food gunk. Just a few slices of cut lemon placed near a litter box will help neutralize unpleasant odors.

Polish Metal Surfaces

There's no need to purchase a special polish for stainless steel, aluminum and chrome. Just cut a lemon in half and rub it directly on the surface to remove fingerprints and grime. For extra cleaning power, mix lemon juice with either salt, baking soda or cream of tartar. The latter two options are gentle enough to polish metal surfaces without leaving any scratches behind.

Eliminate Stains

Sweat, grass, wine, tomato and other stains can be lifted right out with a little lemon juice. Blot up as much of the offending substance as possible, and then saturate the stain with juice. Sprinkle with salt and then rub the salt in. Then, toss the garment into the wash.

Brighten Laundry Without Bleach

white clothes drying by an open window
Brighten white clothes by adding a little lemon juice to the wash. bikeriderlondon/Shutterstock

You don't need bleach to brighten whites that have dulled or yellowed. Add a quarter-cup of lemon juice to the rinse cycle when washing white laundry, and then hang the items to dry on a clothesline in the sun. The combination of lemons and sunlight will have your whites looking good as new.

Keep Vegetables and Fruits From Browning

Apples, potatoes, avocados and other fruits and vegetable that tend to turn brown when sliced can be preserved with just a little bit of lemon juice. Add a teaspoon or so to the water when boiling potatoes, and sprinkle just a little bit on fruit salad or guacamole.

Clean Greasy Dishes

Lemon juice is extremely effective on grease. Squeeze it onto tough messes, including crusted, baked-on foods, and let it sit for a few minutes. Then, make a paste with some baking soda and a little more lemon juice and scrub away the gunk.

Relieve a Sore Throat

lemon and honey
Lemon and honey can be a soothing combination for a sore throat. Es75/Shutterstock

No matter how it's flavored, cough syrup never tastes good. The next time your throat is so sore you can barely breathe, try this trick instead: Mix a tablespoon of lemon juice and a tablespoon of honey into a cup of water and either simmer on the stovetop or microwave until warm, but not too hot to drink. The lemon clears congestion, while the honey soothes inflamed tissue.

Repel Insects Without Pesticide

Ants, fleas, moths, cockroaches and other insects are driven away by the strong scent and flavor of lemons. Hang a breathable cloth sachet of dried lemon peels in your closet instead of mothballs, and squeeze fresh lemon juice onto windowsills and doors where pests are likely to gain entrance to your home. You can also spray lemon juice into hard-to-reach areas, like the cracks between appliances and walls.

Whiten Yellow Fingernails

Give your nails a healthier, more youthful look with a lemon juice soak. Remove any nail polish, wash your hands and then soak your fingernails in full-strength lemon juice for a minute or two. Moisturize them afterward to prevent excessive dryness.